Lesson Learned – Getting a Passport on the Fly

It’s been a long week and finally, Thursday night rolls around. You didn’t sleep well the night before; the excitement for your upcoming international trip is beginning to kick-in. The clock hits 6 PM and you realize it’s time to throw in the towel, organize your workspace and leave the office. At this point, there’s only a few simple items left on your departure list: strategically pack a duffle and backpack (we believe packing is an art and look forward to sharing a few simple pack-hacks in an up-coming post), check-in for your flight, print your boarding pass and pack it in your “secure document” slot.

8 PM rolls around. You’re organized and your departure plan is working – as it should since you’ve done this dozens of times. The next step is the easiest and it’s all downhill from here; Login to the airline’s website and check your flight status – everything’s on schedule. Now’s the time to enter your passport and emergency contact information – here we go!

But wait.

You know that moment when loads of planning, preparation, experience and in-turn an ocean of pride simultaneously hit the floor in one gaping gust?

Well, shit.

It was Thursday night at 8:15 PM EST and I discovered my passport was expired.

Within seconds, crisis management mode kicked-in. How do I fix this? My flight departed to Asia from Detroit the following day. Within a minute I was in a queue to speak with an agent at the US Department of State Passport Agency. Once connected, we first confirmed there was no availability in Detroit the next morning – maybe I can stop by the most local passport agency on way to the airport, right?

Wrong.

Of course, their schedule was booked weeks out. Apparently, other people had their act together and were prepared – urghhhh.

I was flying Delta and although I was booked on a direct flight, I knew that the airline regularly routed Asian flights through their sister hubs on the west coast (Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle) So I not only hunted down but found, an available appointment at the passport office in Seattle for the following morning (the agent made a point to explain this was less than usual).

Next, let operation “change-international-flight-last-minute” begin. As a frequent (but not consistent) traveler on the same airline, I had only achieved Gold status on Delta which did very little, if anything, for me in this situation. However, I’m on the road a lot and had saved up a few “emergency vouchers” from previous Delta flights. Yup, I’d classify this as an emergency. I called the airline and after hanging up multiple times to get the right “helpful” employee on the phone, I was able to change my flight to route through Seattle using a $250 voucher. Because of the time gained traveling west, it looked like the routing may actually work.

I departed the Midwest at 5:20 AM connecting through Detroit, landed at the Seattle airport by 9 AM PST, Ubered downtown and was in line to check in for my 10 AM appointment by 9:45 AM. I of course, had to explain my situation to the helpful agent behind the counter, who definitely raised an eyebrow in disbelief when I broke down the chain of events that led me to her. I guess this doesn’t happen often? The Seattle US Passport Agency, despite telling me it would take at least an hour to complete my renewal, turned everything around within a half hour leaving me with plenty of time to get back to the airport and check-in for my flight.

Rule of thumb: Renew early.

If you don’t, at the very least make sure you know your options. With some simple research and the right conversation, a lot of good things are possible. This inconvenient but achievable option put me out an emergency voucher, but saved me a full day overseas.